Ao dai becomes an inspiration

Romantic past: Vietnamese-French designer Pascale Valery Tung Lam. — Photo Sunny Rose

Romantic past: Vietnamese-French designer Pascale Valery Tung Lam. — Photo Sunny Rose

by Vo Le Hong

HCM CITY (VNS) — I again met Vietnamese-French designer Pascale Valery Tung Lam at a fashion show and dinner at Reflections Restaurant Caravelle Saigon Hotel recently.

You cannot mistake Lam for anyone else as she always wears a special turban on her head as a symbol of her Vietnamese origin. All the more interesting when you hear her speak Vietnamese, French, and English.

Lam came back to Viet Nam with two-Michelin-star chef Christopher Coutanceau to create a perfect dinner with excellent cooking and an interesting fashion show in the centre of HCM City.

“Vietnamese culture inspires my work because it is my own dual upbringing. The other is French. It also inspires my work with the ao dai in Vietnamese silks,” she said.

Lam is the child of a romantic love between a French woman from Champagne and a Vietnamese man from Ha Noi. They both had the same passion and played the violin.

Her father was a doctor and her mother a violin professor. She taught the violin to young students. Tung Lam is the eldest of four children, was born in Paris and lived in HCM City for the first 10 years of her life, before moving to France because of the war. She learned Vietnamese from her paternal grandmother. In 1996, she returned to Viet Nam for the first time and has come back several times since.

“The difference in my show this time is that it involves three parts and three trends”, she said.

The first trend looks casual, which is for urban women who are active, simple, and independent. The materials used are also modern, with intelligent tissues and very comfortable.

The second part shows the inspiration of Vietnamese dresses, but with a touch of western taste, and also suits the form and size of women in Europe, who want to wear the Vietnamese tunic easily and more comfortably.

The third part shows dresses designed according to the aromas of the wines, French culture and patrimony.

“I became a fashion designer, like my French grandmother, who had a fashion house. She passed on to me her passion for this trade, especially for silk, and taught me how to match colours,” Lam said.

After her studies of fine arts, marketing in England and the US, and courses at Stanford University, she opened a fashion house in France, and was lucky to meet her fashion godmother, Carven, who is a famous designer in Paris.

She learned the sensorial approach and studied the aromas of wine with her husband, Jean Jacques, who is a wine taster and export manager for a famous wine and spirit distributor. She also studied with Jacques Puisais, an eminent ethnologist.

She designed dresses according to the aromas of wines and held very successful shows in France and other European countries, including in Paris, the capital of fashion.

Lam developed design and business skills thanks to Ratti Spa, a large Italian factory that makes silk. She also designed for other brands, such as Pierre D’Alby, Christine Laure and Sarah B.

“I studied the history of Vietnamese dress, the ao dai, and met Lien Huong, a famous designer of ao dai. I invited her to France and suggested to UNESCO that the ao dai be classified as an intangible heritage. During my stay in Viet Nam, I worked as a fashion consultant to producers, such as IGTC, Vita Jean, Sai Gon 2, and Sanding and Thai Tuan Company,” she said.

“I returned to Viet Nam because I always wish to contribute to co-operation between France and Viet Nam. My husband and I introduced Christopher Coutanceau, as one of the best cooks now in France, to Caravelle Hotel and now they want me, managing a fashion show,” she said.

Lam also introduced French writer, journalist and photographer Jean Luc Pechinot, who presented an exhibition of pictures on cooking meals, French wine growing regions, and some castles in Loire valley, which are very typical pictures of France, and also was a signature for his books.

“I think that fashion in Viet Nam is coming up slowly, with a definite and typical look. It’s no copy from China, because there are really good designers here in the country,” she remarked. — VNS

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